Subject: Sound:Groups demand U.S. Navy stop t (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Fri, 13 Mar 1998 11:48:50 -0500 (EST)


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 98 04:13:00 GMT 
Subject: Groups demand U.S. Navy stop t

Groups demand U.S. Navy stop tests on whales

    HONOLULU (Reuters) - A coalition of environmental groups
Monday asked a federal court to stop the U.S. Navy from
launching tests designed to see how humpback whales react to
piercing sounds blasted through the water.
     The proposed Low Frequency Active (LFA) sonar system would
use huge transmitters towed behind ships to pump deafening sound
into waters just a few miles from the new Hawaiian Islands
Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
     The groups, including Greenpeace and the Animal Welfare
Institute, asked for a temporary restraining order to stop the
tests off the Kona coast of Hawaii's Big Island on Feb. 25.
     "The Navy has tried to minimize public awareness and
input," said attorney Paul Achitoff of the Earthjustice Legal
Defense Fund.
     "The public has a right to judge for itself if we need to
put our endangered marine life at risk in this way."
     The groups said the test of LFA, designed as a long-range
sonar system to detect "quiet" submarines by flooding the
oceans with soundwaves, could torture and possibly injure the
targeted whales in their favorite breeding habitat.
     "The test is specifically designed to see how the
endangered whales -- including those breeding and nursing --
react to bursts of underwater noise a thousand times louder than
a 747 jet engine," the groups' news release said.
     The Navy plan reportedly intends to use sounds of up to 215
decibels to see how loud a sound must be before it causes a
"behavioral change" in the whales.
     Scientists familiar with the project said it was designed to
help the Navy avoid disturbing marine life in future by
obtaining data on what exactly the whales can and cannot
     Similar tests have already been completed in recent months
on blue whales and migrating gray whales near the California
coast, they added.
     "This will allow them more accurately to see how animals
perceive sound," said Adam Frankel of the Acoustic Thermometry
of Ocean Climate (ATOC) project run by the Scripps Institution
of Oceanography, an unaffiliated research venture that also uses
sound waves in Hawaiian waters.
     "There is no reason to think that physical injury would
occur," he said.
     Mark Berman of the Earth Island Institute, one of the groups
demanding a halt to the tests, said much more research should be
done before filling the whales' habitat with what could be
intolerable noise.
     "We don't think they've done enough studies in advance to
protect the whales," Berman said.
     "We find the whole thing outrageous because of the fact
that these tests are being done for the military when it is not
really necessary," Berman said. "The Cold War is over, nobody
else even has the kind of submarines these systems are designed
to look for."